Parenting Vivian | 24 Dec 2010 10:00 pm

Bedtime For Baby – How and When to Put Children to Bed

Start with building up a routine. Children of all ages need a regular bedtime routine so put a stop to active play after dinner and encourage quieter activities. After their baths, wind children down for bed by reading them stories. If your partner comes home at this time, involve them in the reading but discourage starting up exciting new games.

There’s no harm in letting children stay up at night, provided that they have opportunities to sleep during the day, and on the Continent this is quite usual. However, if you want time on your own in the evenings, its best to establish and stick to a definite bedtime once youngsters are old enough to sleep through the night. Most under fives should be in bed by 7pm and school age children under ten between 7pm and 8.30pm. Older children could have the same bedtime, but read in bed till around 9.30pm.

Small babies need a more flexible approach, however, and can’t be expected to follow regular bedtimes. Most sleep through the night by five months, but not all.

If your baby’s still bright eyed when you’re ready for bed yourself, the problem could be too much rest too early in the evening. Try keeping the baby awake and active for around three hours before you go to bed.

Keep toddlers’ daytime naps short, and, if necessary, wake them by softly turning on the radio after about 1-2 hours. Make naps early in the afternoon, so that the child will be sleepy again by bedtime.

Help children look forward to bed by singing them to sleep and having favourite toys or comfort rags to cuddle.

Don’t make bedrooms and passages so dark at night that your child can’t find its way around if it needs to. Install a safety light in the bedroom or a low wattage bulb on the landing, or give older children their own torches to use at night.

Read non-frightening stories at bedtime to help your child relax. Children of about a year can also be left with cloth or board books to look at on their own if they don’t fall asleep immediately.

Watch out for toddlers who suddenly lean to climb out of their cots. Either lower the mattress to prevent escape or let them sleep in a single bed. Some starter beds have raised sides for safety, or you can attach bed guards. Always check that guards do not have bars which could trap a small head, and attach them so that there is not room for your child to get its head caught between the headboard and the guard. Alternatively, let the child sleep in an ordinary bed and leave a pillow or padded quilt on the floor to soften landings.

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